Don't Give Up Just Yet





Now more than ever, we are being challenged in our relationships. I noticed my Midlife Crisis books are still selling during this pandemic. Does that say something?


We certainly need new rules of engagement. Patience, kindness, understanding are needed. Tolerance is needed. Putting each other first works wonders. 

There are pressures from the news, from social media, from losing work, from having to work at home. The list is endless. The stress is great.


I've been told, many people are becoming reflective during this pandemic. They are looking up old boyfriends, they are writing memoirs, they are writing stories, they are considering if they really want to stay married to the person they are sheltering at home with. 


Let me put this out there. This is not the time to make life-altering decisions (in most cases). Remember you are on the same team. You are not enemies. Get back to that idea. Discuss what kind of team you want to be. Discuss rules. Discuss where you see yourselves headed. 


Where you disagree (for instance political parties), you may have to keep your thoughts to yourself. It's not worth breaking up your marriage over politics. 


In order to receive love, you may have
 to give it. You may have to cast your cares on God and ask him to fulfill your needs because he knows them best. You should ask for more patience and eyes to see your mate through God's eyes. Ask God to show you yourself through his eyes too because at these troubling times, there can be a lot of self-loathing.

To love your neighbour as yourself you must love yourself too.

 
Self Care 


Lots of people are talking about the need for self-care to make it through this Pandemic challenge. That includes taking deep breaths, meditating, praying, eating healthy, exercising, forest bathing. Self-care is one way to keep the tension down. 

Reading helpful devotionals or Bible verses will also help to keep you on an even keel. 


Many have commented how every day seems the same. One day flows into the next. I have found that myself. But, due to the pandemic, my complaining about not having a vacation has been quelled. I don't want to travel during this pandemic. 


Make the Days Different 


It can be helpful to your emotional health to make your days a little different. For instance,  maybe Sunday can be a day for reading, taking in an online church service, strolling, playing music, just simply making the day different.


Monday (aside from paid work) might be recuperation day, laundry day, housework day, article writing day, email cleanup day, client service day.


One night may be a movie night, favourite show day, crafting time. 


Give Your Day Structure 


To give your day structure, add in a few simple things. I turn on a hall light at dusk. It stays on as a nightlight until I get up in the morning. When I get up, turning off the light signals a start to my day. I also drink a glass of water and walk around my yard. Someone else might have a routine of fetching mail, making coffee or tea, watering plants...


A Few Empty Nest Thoughts During Pandemic


It's mid-July 2020. We are in the pandemic. Here in Canada, we are sheltering at home as much as possible only going out for essentials. 

Our rules tell us to form bubbles of people we will hug. They suggest that is our family/extended family. Imagine how my husband and I felt when our now married daughter informed us she and her husband had formed their own bubble--with friends. They're meeting with their own bubble trusting their bubble hasn't met up with COVID-19 anywhere. So when they last visited, no hugs. Distance. 

My daughter moved away from us quickly. When she was 17 we were moving from BC to Ontario. She decided she wanted to stay back where she could work at the church for pay. We rented her a dorm room in a Bible college residence. She would later fly to Ontario. Once she moved to be with us, she barely got to know the new house and went off to stay in a university dorm. 

In the meantime, we had her room renovated with a large window seat and spectacular shelves. We had promised to give her this window seated-bedroom in exchange for the hassle of moving. (Something she fought.)

Gone

We moved her into her dorm in Septemeber. So she hardly had time to be with us. She did come home every two to three weekends, though, and in the summer. 

I knew she missed friends in the summer. I knew the feeling. When I was her age, I hated the end of my first exciting year at college. She wasn't driving yet, so meeting up with friends was complicated. Her long-distance boyfriend broke up with her leaving her more miserable. 

Fortunately, I was able to help her find a summer job working at the local butterfly garden. I think it eased the depression I could see trying to wash over her, but not totally. 

She soon returned to school again, and was in and out of dorm rooms a total of five years, never returning home! 

Graduation 

I was devastated when she graduated school and took a job in a city three hours away. I don't blame her. She had moved on with her life. But I hadn't caught up. I hadn't made the break from her the same way she had from us. My mother's heart felt crushed at times.  

I was home with my husband and son (who also left to live in student housing). My son and husband are quiet. I missed the added estrogen in the house and the noise of a loud daughter. 

Then she married. 

Moving On

I joined a great gym where I made lots of friends my age. I guess I got my estrogen fix there. It was life-saving. But when the pandemic hit, the gym closed. A huge part of my "new life" had disappeared. It had been a gift from God and now it has been snatched away.

I'm hanging on emotionally as I'm sure all my readers are. None of us can make plans until there is a vaccine. It feels so punishing. I'm back at square one again--no kids at home and not much empty nest life beyond home due to the pandemic. 

How are you doing? Are you using your time well? Are you encouraging yourself? Are you still trusting that God is in control? Are you looking for ways to reach out in love to others?

We don't know what God has in mind. We must each look to him for our own clarity. God promises to guide us through storms. He gives good gifts to his children. I know well there are gifts in this self-isolating time. I trust he is preparing a new path for me in the coming days too. I trust he keeps depression at bay and gives new motivation. I'm in need of some just now. Are you?

Lord, we look to you as our source.
Grant us the motivation to get things done.
Give us goals to set that we can achieve safely during this pandemic.
Give us warm greetings from online friends or through phone calls. 
Restore us. Change us. Make us into the women you want us to be. Keep us safe. Keep our children safe. May we be pleasing to you. AMEN


Tired from Being an Empath



The last couple of days I've been exhausted. It could be from many things.   

1. I did a lot of yard work in the heat this week = heat overload + body tiredness. 
2. Allergies. I have environmental allergies and working outdoors while everything is blooming is sure to affect me.
3. Pandemic Sheltering-at-Home Overwhelm. 

It's the third one I want to talk about here. I'm a woman of faith and try to enact my faith. Prayer is a default. But I have another default - I'm an empath. I didn't need to take any tests to know it, I just know myself enough to say I am one.

One article describes an empath this way (which I've personalized):

I feel deeply. I tune in to the feelings of people around me--even people I don't know. That means, my husband and son who are home right now but also friends on Facebook and strangers I read about. 

I am a sensitive person. I absorb the world’s joys and stresses like an “emotional sponge.”  So many times I feel off. My son said, "Don't project your anxiety on others." That's comforting in a strange way. He meant he is not feeling anxious, so me assuming he might be isn't helpful. I need to quit making assumptions and not default to worry.
Empaths bring a lot of heart and care to the world and feel things deeply.
The term empath comes from empathy, which is the ability to understand the experiences and feelings of others outside of your own perspective.
During these shelter-at-home days, my own life changed only slightly. But my empath nature is quick to feel for people out of work or who have lost their business and income. 
As an empath, I feel problems so deeply, I want to do something about them. But this can result in disappointment and compassion fatigue. 
Conflict
Due to wanting to keep busy, I read Twitter, watch CNN and read COVID-19 updates. I even participate on some Facebook groups and have found people are getting very nasty. Their nastiness bothers me. Empaths don't like conflict.
I decided today some of my fatigue is information overload combined with being too empathetic to the negatives of the world. I'm in overwhelm. 
Another Point - Too Close
The article points out empaths find frequent close contact difficult, which can make romantic relationships challenging. We want to connect and develop lasting partnerships. But we don't want to lose ourselves in the relationship from spending too much time together. 
This has been a recent problem as my husband is working from home. Never before have we spent this much time together. It's a recipe for cabin fever and infighting. It was great years ago when he had to travel every few weeks. 
God has given us unique gifts and it is important to consult him on what bothers us. He will help us set boundaries. 
Are you struggling to keep your emotions and mental health in balance during this Stay-at-Home time? 
I am moderating a Facebook Group called Shelter-at-Home Accountability group which you may find helpful. It is mixed-faith so we don't focus on Christian principles per se, but having others to share our struggles with can be helpful. 

Reassurance During Your Sheltering-at-Home


Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your path.  Proverbs 3:5-6    


Hi friends, how are you doing during this pandemic? 

Nothing in our world is normal. For that reason, our brains are being challenged on many levels. We have to 'think' before attempting to go anywhere. We have to get our mask, and maybe gloves, other plastic, or sanitizer if we're touching strange surfaces like grocery store freezer doors. We have to Google search the store we plan to go to to check their hours and procedures. When we get there we might find they have rules that we didn't expect. Then we're thrown off guard. 

Frustration is a word I'm coming across in the community. 

I'm also hearing about lack of motivation. Many have all the time in the world and are just not motivated as they used to be to complete projects. 

Others are feeling sad or depressed as they try to process the sudden halt to their regimen or the business they were building. Some it's not being able to visit grandchildren that bothers them. Yesterday, I cried after being frustrated grocery shopping.

Many others are feeling bored. Their meaning or purpose in life has diminished. 


***

If you see yourself in any of the above examples, I mostly want to assure you, you aren't strange, faulty, or weak. You are a normal human going through new challenges beyond your own control. 

I challenge you to ask God to reveal new purpose in the midst of your sheltering. I feel God wants us to bloom where we are planted. Every place you put your foot as a believer is Holy ground, so to speak. You can still apply yourself with excellence on the few things that are within your control. You may be the listening ear someone needs.Ask God how he might want you to reach out to others even if it's not in person.

You can use this time to study Christian living themes, to pray more often, or to take online courses. 


***

Yesterday, a friend did a small porch drop at my home. I'm in a book group with her. I can tell she probably enjoyed preparing the gift. She and her husband also enjoy going for drives, so that in itself added a layer to her life. It also added a layer of human contact to my life. It was nice. 

I dropped off scrubs and face masks as well as cards to two PSWs in my neighborhood in April. It felt good to do a good deed. I know it's not easy to find those good deeds when you can't be in contact with people, but maybe you can send a card or write an email. 

When thoughts arise of what you're missing out on, change the thought to ask God what it is right where you are he wants you to do. As long as you have breath, you have purpose!

Feeling a Little Out of Control While Sheltering at Home

My husband and I have been "sheltering at home" here in Ontario, Canada, nine weeks now. While I thought all would continue as normal, as I put in this post, we are now becoming weary and unmotivated. 


I was glad to have this block of Corona Virus Pandemic time to write a book. I finished the draft yesterday and want to let it sit while I focus on other things. 

Schedule Mixup

While writing it, with nowhere to be in the morning, I stayed up sometimes until 5 o'clock a.m. to work on it, which then put the rest of my day in a weird time space. Even nights I went to bed earlier, I would sleep in until 11, or 1, or even 3 p.m. I'd get up have my coffee and then plan what to make for dinner. 

By now, days and nights are running over each other for most of us. We often don't even know what day it is. We sometimes don't even shower, dress, or wash our hair. We are becoming sluggish. 

My husband has been a trooper though. He has umpteen conference calls and makes sure he is at work by 8:30.

Fitness 

The walks my husband and I started with have been put aside. The weather got cold again. 

I have had zero motivation to do the workouts my gym sends. I don't know if I should stop my membership now or not. It's keeping people employed. 

We are seeing just how much working outside the home, going to our gym, meeting friends for coffee, going to church, and so on, gives our life structure. We are craving that structure back. 

Shopping 

Husband and I have masks now to wear if one of us goes shopping. These expeditions are like hunting trips. 

Not every retailer or fast food place has the same rules which is frustrating. I drove up to one and the drive-thru was blocked and the sign on their door said you could only order by a mobile app. (That will lose an entire market of people who don't to shop by phone.)

Another sporting goods store I thought I could go into to try on work boots or runners only had a curbside pickup option.  (I threw out my lawnmowing/gardening boots last fall during a declutter session) So there goes the try the boots on first idea. I returned home annoyed. 

Other places have long lineups I will gladly pass on. One made me take my shopping bags back to my car after I had put on my PPE and sanitized my hands!  They didn't want home bags even brought into the store! Could have let me know when they first saw me come in. That made me angry.

Trails near my home are closed--not allowed to go for walks on them. It feels like I have to do the same route up and down my road or around my yard. 

Today it's May and we had snow. Not very inviting. 

My husband and I are so frustrated with this routine we've made a new habit of buying a cake every time we shop. We try to make the cake last all week. It is our happy food in a trying time. (But not good for our diet, but I can't go for my next blood sugar test anytime soon anyhow.)

We also buy a big ready-made salad. It lasts 4-5 days and is so handy for those stress eating moments. 

As much as I know God is in control, some of us do feel a little out of control. Do you?

When I've brought up my feelings this weekend, my husband has urged me to not think about it so much. A therapist has also offered tips online that point out the more we resist our situation, the worse we will feel. Acceptance is important. And so is finding meaning while sheltering at home.  Hang in there. 




Writing for Therapy


I've been writing. Call it a memoir, a story, or creative nonfiction. It's kept me glued to my computer chair probably longer than I should be. 

I don't know if I'll publish the story or not, it's just something God called me to when I prayed, "What shall I work on during this sheltering at home phase?" 

God put in my mind to write about a challenging life phase. 

Two years ago, it became apparent there were some unhealed wounds that resulted in C-PTSD symptoms.

I worked through them with a therapist, but more recently, something a friend said bugged me. I realized my trauma, pain, challenges--whatever you want to call them, of yesteryear, would never be fathomed by so many who haven't had similar challenges. So as a response to my frustration, I set out to write my story in detail as though to educate my friend. 

Before the pandemic, I'd been focused on the concept of not putting new wine into old wineskins. I took it as a message to get myself ready for something new. 

I'd also joined a "Momentum Challenge" for 30 days where our coach would post prompts weekly. It was clear her prompts were also leading me to this project. 

Try it for Yourself 

I'd like to challenge you to try something similar because there can be many therapeutic benefits to it, and it gives you something interesting to do. 

I have been amazed at the transformation happening within me. I'm getting rid of gunky buildup in my brain.

Transformation 

1. There are two parts to the transformation I've expereinced, one has been learning and growing. 

I'm sure I've asked God what he wants me to study or learn and he has plunked me into a season of learning more about writing--more like a fiction writer.

I've been interacting with an online writing group when I've had questions. 

I've used multiple new resources.


2. The second part of the transformation has included this awareness:


  • I've revisited the girl/woman I was.
  • Now as an older woman, I see clearer. 
  • God has revealed things. I've made connections to events. My eyes have been opened.(of course, some of that started with my therapist's input too.)
  • I've identified weaknesses in myself--places I lacked confidence and may still lack it, but I've felt my confidence growing. 
  • I've identified faulty thinking I had but I know why I had it.
  • I have seen where in my story God protected me.
  • I've seen where the enemy challenged me.
  • I've identified reasons some things transpired the ways they did.
  • I'm more thankful for my husband and the life I have now.
  • I'm going to be careful to not let anything trigger me going forward.


With my therapist, I talked about key moments, but now during writing, the detail is more liberating. 

Pray

Going back in time with a therapist is safe. Going back in time on our own is usually not valuable. It's good to leave the past in the past. Since God led me to do this writing, I figured he wanted me to tidy up unfinished business. I knew it could be volatile, so I prayed for protection. 

First I wrote the segments of my life I wanted to write about. I used real dates and names. I realized I wanted to just get the project out of the way. Have it over with. 

The second week, I changed the names and geographic locations. That helped immensely in aiding me to distance myself from the story. Now it was almost like someone else's story. 

Next, I did the usual editing things like removed a list of words that are cumbersome. That can be a fun project but can also be tedious. Here is an article that helps with that part. 

Descriptions

Next, I looked up fiction and memoir books on Amazon. I chose those with relatable themes to my story and I used the "look inside feature" to get a glimpse at how others have told their story. 

I borrowed some descriptions from there (not word for word - ever - just stylistically).

Next I used this tool "Descriptionar: Creative Writing Ideas"   There, writers have generously given writing examples for numerous themes. They've done such a great job too! I have never written like these writers do. 

You simply pop a word into their search feature and samples come up. These samples are purposely given to help writers become better. I wouldn't advise copying what they've written directly into your story, but to use the input to improve your writing.

More Transformation 

The transformation this tool has given me is beyond words! 

This tool is able to put into words what I cannot sufficiently describe on my own. 

The descriptions tap into the nitty-gritty depths of a person's mind, heart, or soul. 

The samples helped me find validation for how things were then. 

For example, instead of saying "I was afraid," writer Sophie writes:

"Adrenaline floods my system, It pumps and beats like it’s trying to escape. I think my heart will explode and my eyes are wide with fear." 
(https://www.descriptionari.com/quotes/fear/?h=afraid)


Her phrasing is so appropriate. I have more empathy for the girl in Sophie's quote.  

While writing, I have so many moments of insight, I want to stop and journal about it. But I don't. I reflect and mostly thank God for his goodness for having his hand on me and restoring me. 

As I re-edit I will try to take note of what else this exercise is doing for me. It's been remarkable. 




Should Your Lock Down Become a Fast?



I have resented the many social media posts that imply we are all a mess during our personal lock-downs due to the stay in place directive related to the corona virus (COVID-19).

I did not feel a mess or anxious until perhaps this evening. This weekend marks my 2nd full week of self-isolation. I have been to grocery stores twice in the two weeks for a short time, been out for walks, but more or less have been home reading, writing, and watching TV.

Why We Feel Off

A friend on social media wrote why she feels a little off.  Her explanation helped me make sense of my feelings.

Missing for her are day and week markers. Her markers were simple things that were regularly in her schedule. Gone is her in-person Bible study, her card game, and her crafting group meetup.

My markers have been meeting my gym mates for mid-morning workouts, my husband's return from work at dinnertime, going to church, that kind of thing.

Some of us currently feel off-kilter since the little bit of structure we had is gone.

Day tends to flow into day.

Managing the New Routine

It's also spring and here in Ontario, Canada. Has only been a little sunny and isn't quite warm enough to do a lot of yard work. It is supposed to rain this week.




As an introvert who is used to working from home, I admit I don't have this prison sentence licked.

We all need outside interaction. We need something beyond our spouse and our own homes. Our structure is missing. Our connections are missing.

No Use in Complaining

I used to complain about my situation. I'd tell my husband I was dying inside--especially when I had no meaningful writing projects, when articles and books weren't selling, or when I had writer's block. I often said I wanted a real job.

When no new job transpired, my husband usually told me to just appreciate my life. Now that he is also working from home, I hope he feels catches a glimpse of the rut-like feeling I've often experienced. I hope he learns empathy.

I've told God I'd be his scribe--his conduit to the world through my writing if he'd let me. For a time, I felt him leading me to write great articles and Kindle books. But lately, the anointing seems to be gone. My last book for at-home moms isn't selling at all.

The organization I sell articles through has new editors. I've never had so many rejections in ten years as I've had in the last six months. It's discouraging!

So right now, in the midst of this COVID-19 lockdown, though I crave change, now is not a time for change. The whole world is locked down!


Fasting

I realized today, this lockdown can be viewed as a fast we're all on. We are fasting life as we've known it. Do you see that? What are you fasting from just now?

We can probably use some of this time to tune into God to find out what he is up to in our lives--the usual purpose for a fast. If only we can pull ourselves away from the news, social media updates, or TV shows.

New Starts 

With the turn of the calendar, many of us looked forward to what new thing God might do in our life in 2020. Did you?

Some of have been anticipating new opened doors.

If we view this as a forced fast, can we press into God to hear from him better?

God is With Us 

God has not left us. He is still at work. It's not for us to worry about the future or to try to figure out this COVID-19 thing. He works all things out in our lives for good. That hasn't changed. We need to stay in faith.

Why not ask God to grow your faith?
Why not ask him to speak to you about what he has in mind for you?
Make a list of what he reveals to you during your lock down.